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Monthly Archives: April 2010

I think we’d all agree March was a very therapeutic month.  The days got longer, the sun shone a little brighter and – oh, yeah – Katie Brown settled the age-old dispute of you vs. them.  Of course I’m talking about your in-laws, in case you didn’t know.  

Apparently, there’s only one thing that’s (maybe) more difficult than your future in-laws – managing money – and Miz Brown seems to have a pretty good handle on that, as well.  (Seriously: is there anything in the realm of matrimonial bliss – or wedded unbliss – this woman doesn’t know or can’t solve?) 

According to the Southern Weddings relationship guru, just talking about how you and your other half will handle the family finances means you’re already well on your way to a life in the black.  She’s got more advice – natch – so keep on reading.  And, as always, don’t forget to hop on over to Katie’s own blog, Confessions of a Young Married Couple, for some more one-on-one time with the woman I like to think of as my personal therapist.  (She’s a whole lot cheaper, too!)

How did you go about combining your bank accounts and finances when you first got married?  Was that a struggle in your relationship?

Money is a struggle whether you are a sixteen-year-old babysitter managing your cash flow or you are a 65-year-old retiree trying to plan for a casino vacation.  And no matter what end of the spectrum you find yourself, the first thing to remember about money is that you can’t take it personally.

I know, I know.  It’s your money.  Of COURSE its personal.  And I’m not saying that it isn’t personal.  I’m just saying you can’t take it personally.  Having the discussion (and subsequent discussions throughout the rest of your marriage) about money is already hard, but it helps to talk about it as if the two of you are starting a small business.  And you sort of are.  Operating a family budget makes you the CFO of your own company, your own little empire.  And you can’t be a good CFO if you take every discussion about money personally.

When Chris and I got married, we had been dating for six years.  We had grown up together.  I knew where he kept his toenail clippers and what he put on his hamburger, but I knew nothing about his finances.  I knew that, like most of us, he had struggled to get through college.  Money had been tight and his family hadn’t been able to help as much as they wanted.  But I never asked where he got all his money.  For all I knew, he was running an underground gambling ring in his basement at night. 

Turns out, it was worse.

Chris made up the difference between what his parents could provide, what cash he could make and what he needed to live by charging everything to his credit cards.  When we finally sat down to talk about our finances about two months before our wedding, I almost fainted.

I was fortunate that my parents had been able to put me through school.  I had a steady job through college that paid for my spending and gas, but my parents really took care of everything else. 

(Go ahead and hate me.  I’ll wait.) 

What that meant was that I brought no debt into my marriage.  But I also brought very little understanding of budgeting either.  I had never really had to budget much before.  My mom is in banking and she made sure I knew how to handle money, but I always knew that my parents were there as my security blanket, so the budgeting part of her lectures went in one ear and out the other. 

One afternoon, Chris and I talked about our money.  We laid out all of our (well, his) debt and all of our income and cash.  For our marriage, we decided it would be best to pool our money into one checking and one savings account for us to share.  With Chris getting ready to enter graduate school and my income soon becoming our sole income, it just made more sense that it should all come from one place.  So, we opened our two little accounts, put all our money into them, and together we talked about how we were going to get rid of Chris’ credit card debt ,which, at the time, was around $7,000. 

We set our financial priorities, and eliminating credit card debt before we moved across the country to Connecticut in six months was the first on our list.  So, we did what we had to do.  We moved into Chris’ dad’s house for the summer and we both got summer jobs.  We put every single penny we made towards credit card payments. 

Chris started graduate school in September, and by August we had paid off everything he owed on his credit cards. 

What I learned through those first months of marriage and managing money with Chris was that just because I was the one who came into the relationship with fewer financial problems didn’t mean that I got to make all the decisions.  It didn’t even mean that I was the most qualified to make all the decisions.  Chris had lived on a budget all through college and that was something he would eventually teach me how to do in our marriage.  And where Chris had mismanaged his money and made poor decisions in his budgeting, I was able to teach him the lessons I had learned from my parents about saving and investing. 

The important thing to remember when you’re handling money as a couple is that one of you isn’t right and one of you isn’t wrong.  You’re a small business now, remember?  And like any small business, you will each bring valid ideas and concepts to your relationship as well as to your financials.  But you have to be open to listening and discussing those concepts first. 

A lot of couples shy away from discussions about money altogether – either because they don’t know how to have the conversation or because they are ashamed of their financial history.

Let me tell you.  It needs to be discussed.  Whether you are sharing money or not, your financial status is part of your marriage and should be discussed.  So, as hard as that conversation will be for some people, you have to just sit down and do it.  There were a few things I found during our first talk about money that really helped us have an open conversation:

1.  Don’t go too far into your partner’s financial history.  I found that what made that initial conversation easier for Chris and me was to not give too much history.  I didn’t want to know why there was a charge for $2,000 at Best Buy on his credit card.   Start fresh with your marriage.  Don’t waste the time and energy focusing on past issues that can’t be changed.  Instead, focus on how you want your financial future to be established. 

2.  Establish financial priorities from Day One.  When Chris and I first talked about our money, we started the conversation by talking about where we wanted to be in 20 years.  What kind of lifestyle did we want?  Where did we want our careers to be?  What would our family values be?  By working backwards from that shared end-goal, we were able to identify the priorities we would need to have in order to achieve that 20-year plan.  But realize that you should have a discussion and re-evaluation of your financial goals at least once, if not twice, a year.  Money is fluid, and so should your financial plan.

3.  Be kind.  This is the one I struggle with the most.  Sometimes, we get so comfortable talking with our partners that we let down our hair a little.  We’re a little more to-the-point, a little more direct, a little more unfiltered.  And that actually is a wonderful thing in a relationship.  You should always be able to talk openly and honestly about things in your marriage.  But remember that when you are talking about money, and especially about someone’s financial history, you need to be kind.  This isn’t the conversation where you can chastise or belittle or judge.  You can do those things later when your husband chooses to come home with a $300 beer light that he wants to put up in your living room.  (That, sadly, is a true story for me, by the way…)  When you’re talking about your personal finances, though, be nice.  Be respectful.  Remember that you are a small business and try to use that to guide your discussions. 

In your marriage, you will experience so many times when you will have to take two heads and form one path.  But nowhere is this more important than in your discussions about money.   With honesty and respect and maybe a couple bottles glasses of wine, your financial plan can be the next great step forward in your relationship.

Love Katie as much as we do?  Want to see more pictures of her handsome hubby and cutie-pie baby?  Visit Confessions of a Young Married Couple for your daily dose of sanity!


Written with love by Southern Weddings
10 Comments
  1. avatar GGG reply

    Great post Katie (as usual!) When my now husband and I FIRST started dating he had no savings and I had credit card debt; we tackled it right then and there. We’ve been living on a budget since before we moved-in together and have eliminated all our debt (student loans don’t count!) and have built up a nice savings account over the past 4-5 years. I never thought of it as a small business, but Katie, you hit the nail on the head!

  2. avatar Pam @ Design Fanatic reply

    Katie is a very smart girl & makes some very good points. Every couple needs to have a monthly financial plan – aka a Budget or spending plan- that both persons agree to. Usually there is a spender(free spirit) and a saver(nerd) in a relationship- they should balance each other out! Dave Ramsey’s website and radio program are good resources to help you get your personal finances in order.I personally have been happily married for 24 years and do not fight about money because we have a plan that we both agree on. I confess I am the financial nerd in the family.

  3. avatar Betsy of Belly Feathers reply

    This is a great post! My husband I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes together before we ever got engaged. That really helped us be on the same page from day one.

  4. avatar Nancy Ray reply

    i have a ridiculous obsession with personal finance, so when i read this post i ate up every word! i agree with betsy – dave ramsey’s baby steps are the way to go. TOTALLY helped save our marriage from a number of fights :]. the bottom line? live on less than you make, and you’ll be okay!

  5. avatar Caitlin @ Pacifier In My Pocket reply

    Great post! This is SUPER important in a marriage and so many people skip over this step. Money is part of the foundation to building a life together. Awesome advice

  6. avatar Sarah Hash reply

    Good post Katie! Also people should check out mint.com it makes budgeting fun with colorful graphs and charts, AND it’s FREE!

  7. avatar Emily Humphries reply

    I love this! money is hard, its always hard, but it has to be talked about or you’ll fight about it more! Thanks for featuring this, ladies! =)

  8. avatar Emily @ Southern Weddings reply

    Hey Sarah! LOVE Mint! I actually use Microsoft Money because I bought it before Mint debuted, but both are awesome and so, so helpful.Emily @ SW

  9. avatar Martha reply

    Great post! Really good insight. It's always difficult to discuss finances and share money in relationships. Thanks for your advice. I recently stumbled upon this blog like I stumbled upon yours. I think they offer some good points and laughter about the topic: http://burisonthecouch.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/dolla-dolla-bill-yall/Thanks for the post! I'd like to see more like it.

  10. avatar Confessions of a Young Married Couple: On Moving « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] blog, Marriage Confessions, here, or check out her past columns for Southern Weddings here, here, here, here, and here. Have a question for Katie? Feel free to email her! xo Emily July 25, 2011 | […]

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You know what we really like about Brooke + Steve’s purple color palette?  Rather than being full on jewel-tone purple (which, I must admit, I really love!), everything – from the escort cards to the centerpieces and the flower-topped Publix cake – is tinged a soft shade of lilac.  It’s romantic, sophisticated and just a tad vintage.  And there’s my spiel on wedding colors for the day!  For more from Brooke + Steve’s Southern celebration, visit Smitten Photos’ own blog posts here and here!

Describe your wedding flowers: My mother grows the most amazing lavender roses.  My whole color scheme was based on those roses!  The roses we ended up using for the wedding with weren’t as full as her garden roses, but overall I was really happy. We had two different styles of flowers for the reception and ceremony. For the ceremony, we did simple full arrangements of white and green flowers. For the reception we chose unique flowers and vessels for each table. Describe your wedding cake: This might have been the hardest part of the whole process for me. We met with so many cake designers. Everyone was really creative, but we were on a tight budget. Steve said Publix from the very beginning, but I had a specific idea of what I wanted. Steve’s only request was no fondant. After lots of looking, I finally stopped by Publix and customized exactly what we wanted. I really loved the contrast of the white and purple roses, but my favorite part was the birds on top. Our cake topper was two birds hot glued to a stick that I had customized to look like a bride and groom with some black felt and lace trim from the fabric store.
What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome while planning your wedding?
I am really lucky to have a very creative family. My parents, my step-mom and I all had very different opinions about what we wanted the day to be like, so the first thing I had to learn how to do was to make sure everyone felt they were equally a part of the wedding. I also had to figure out how to voice our view for what we wanted our wedding to be like without making it seem like we were picking sides. It was difficult in the beginning, but things magically resolved themselves as the date got closer!
Did you write your own vows?  If so, what was your favorite phrase, verse or line?
We didn’t write our vows, but I did use www.myweddingvows.com as a resource for things we liked and things we didn’t. We worked really hard to piece together a ceremony that reflected us the most.
What’s next for you as a couple?  What are you looking forward to in the future?
We are really young to be married, but we have our whole lives ahead of us. That means we have a lot of flexibility to figure that out. I know there will be a big move in the future for us, hopefully back South. I’m ready for some good sweet tea, tons of sunshine and that Southern hospitality you don’t really find as much in Louisville. I know Steve eventually wants to have his own dental practice.  As for me, I know I will be doing something creative, hopefully something to do with interior design. All I can say that if the future is anything like putting this wedding together and half as fun as we had that night, we are going to be a very lucky couple.

Congratulations, Brooke + Steve!  Good luck with all the exciting things on your horizon!


Written with love by Southern Weddings
3 Comments
  1. avatar [email protected] reply

    LOVE the bird motif!!!-kelley

  2. avatar Holly Hatam reply

    I love how beautifully the bird theme is carried throughout the wedding. And the sketch of the bird is so cute!

  3. avatar Heidi reply

    Love, love, love!!!!!!!!!!! The wood, the sparkle, the white details are all fabulous. What a beautiful wedding.

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Holy hot shoes, Miss Brooke! (RSVP, FYI)  The bride paired her embellished heels with a traditional Maggie Sottero gown and lilac rose bouquet inspired by the mother of the bride’s own rose garden.  Could those bouquets match the bridesmaids’ belted Jim Hjelm dresses any better?  We think not.  Smitten Photos shot Brooke + Steve’s Georgia wedding at the River Pointe Golf Course.  What do you think of the “church” the bride and her father handmade for her ceremony?  Brooke insists it was her favorite part of the day, and we have to cast our votes for the wooden steeple as well!!

How did the two of you meet?  Tell us your story.  We are both from really small towns in southern Georgia, and we both went to the same very small high school in Perry. I vaguely knew of Steve, but it wasn’t until a night in September of 2003 that we officially met. My parents were having a big dinner party for ten couples, and for some reason a family friend invited himself and Steve to this party.  We ended up talking the whole night!  I found out he was actually only 2 years older that me, and that we had a lot in common. I was so shy at fifteen, and Steve was a freshman in college, so I couldn’t have been more surprised when he called to ask me out a week later.  Our relationship has been a lot of growing up together. We learned to cook together, got a puppy, together, I taught him how to ski, and he taught me about music. We have seen and learned so many things traveling all over the South and throughout Europe. More than anything, we just really enjoying doing things together.
Describe the proposal. Because I knew he had the ring, I thought there was absolutely no way he could surprise me. I just knew I would be able to tell something was up. Steve was pretty clever, though, and proposed with breakfast in bed. Anybody who knows me knows that I LOVE sleep. I am a heavy sleeper, and it takes me a while to actually wake up. So when he came in that morning (which was actually Christmas Eve), I was just excited about breakfast in bed. It took me a while to wake up and notice that he was totally nervous and fumbling with a box in his hand. I dropped my fork when he opened it, and he said the sweetest things. Of course I said yes, but I still couldn’t tell if the proposal was for real or just a dream! I was completely and utterly surprised!
Three adjectives that describe the day are: Romantic, creative and eclectic.
Our favorite detail of the wedding was: This is a hard one. I think it has to be the “church” that my dad and I built. It just made everything so special. But I really liked all the elements of the ceremony, especially the mason jars we sprayed like mercury glass, and the drop cloth and burlap chair covers.
Tell us about finding your wedding dress: I really wanted to wait to go dress shopping with my mom and sisters, but I couldn’t contain my excitement and gathered some girlfriends to hit the local stores. My only direction was that I didn’t want a corset back. I had made it almost all the way through my first appointment with little success, until Zoe (our helper) brought me a Maggie Sottero. It was beautiful, but she said the reason she hadn’t brought it before was because it had a corset back. Honestly, I knew even before I walked out of the room that I was in love. It was the first time I actually felt like a bride instead of like a little girl trying on the wrong dress. Of course I didn’t think it could be that easy so I continued looking for months, but after four trips back to the first store I had my dress.


Written with love by Southern Weddings
6 Comments
  1. avatar Elizabeth @ Dapper Paper reply

    wow, that "church" is STUNNING! i can’t believe they built that, it’s so gorgeous and the chandelier and the stained glass…::swoon:

  2. avatar Emily L. reply

    I love those chair covers!

  3. avatar Album Boutique Team reply

    Stunning colors and accent pieces – I love the chair covers too!! The pictures and couple are absolutely beautiful. Congratulations to Brooke and Steve and thanks for sharing!

  4. avatar Savannah Kenney reply

    Oh dear that is the best chapel ever! Love love love it!

  5. avatar HollandPhotoArts reply

    WOW! That "church" is truly ah-mazing! So sweet that she and her dad made it, too. Also LOVE the chair covers. Fabulous ideas that really personalized their ceremony. Thanks so much for sharing this wedding, Katharine! xoxo…anne&bill

  6. avatar Heather van Breda reply

    That church is absolutely amazing. I love it!

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